Emotions: I have a few… not that there is anything wrong with that!

I was privileged to present to a group of young professionals during the week about a multitude of issues including risk management and managing anxiety. At one point I was asked the following question:

“How do you keep the emotion out of your job?”

My reply was:

“Funnily enough, I don’t try to keep the emotion out of my job … the day I don’t get emotional is the day I should quit this job.”

Now, I know that sounds like a corny line, but it actually is what I truly believe in. Since that presentation I have had a thought bubble that has kept popping into my mind: when did it become bad in professional services to be emotional? Expanded further, that thought has become: is there any problem with being emotional?

Everyone is emotional: it is an immutable truth. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, whilst others keep their emotions in check, but we all have them. Good or bad, our emotions have a huge measure of control over our moods, our demeanour and how we treat those around us.

Given this expansive hold that emotions have over our lives would we all not be better off if we sought to suppress said emotions? That is an obvious question to ask. It is also, frankly, a stupid question. I know from very real personal experience the effect that suppressing one’s emotions can have on one’s mental health. I thought, back before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, that the emotions I was feeling were best left suppressed to the point where I tried to be devoid of all emotion. The effect of taking this approach was that some people thought I was a very cold person – and then at times, all of my emotions would explode (often in conjunction with alcohol). My bad emotions manifested themselves in me being, simply to be able to cope internally, prickly externally… ALL the TIME.

It took me a long time to realise was I was doing to myself in suppressing both my good and bad emotions. It also took me a long to realise that there was nothing wrong with being emotional. As young men, my generation had it beaten into them that emotions and showing them were bad; but I can safely say that now I am more in tune with the effect my emotions, both the good and the bad, have on my work and my life, I am certainly a more centred person.

We are all human and we all feel emotion: not showing or feeling those emotions can only have a deleterious effect. So I mean what I said to the young professionals the other day: the day I do not get emotional about my work and more broadly, life, is the day I have to make significant changes.